I was no more than two or two-and-a-half years old when I became very aware of the painting on my bedroom wall.
It was a portrait of a clown that my dad had painted in 1971, presumably with the intent of using it to decorate my bedroom, because don’t all kids like clowns? It hung there for maybe a year or so before I woke up one morning in my crib and really looked at it. The funny-looking man was staring at me, and I wasn’t okay with that.
I vaguely remember coming to this horrible realization, and busting out in tears. My mom and possibly my dad ran into the room to find out what the problem was. When they figured it out, the painting came down. From there I think it moved to the attic or the back of a closet and I don’t recall if I laid eyes on it for years after that.
It also moved into family lore, though, as the painting that scared the hell out of me. I mean, my dad had the best of intentions in painting it. How would he have known that I’d have that reaction? I guess it’s one of the joys of parenting.
Unfortunately, the painting made me afraid of clowns in general. I could keep my shit together in the vicinity of them, mostly, like at a circus. But interacting more than that was hard for me.
It didn’t help when, a few years later, I had another encounter with clowns that reinforced my fear. Continue reading